Researchers Studying Near-Death Experiences Claim They Can Be More Vivid Than Real Life

Near-death experiences (NDEs) have been documented throughout time, with the earliest dating back to Plato. Generally, they are stories told by people who were dying, or thought to be dying, and then returned to life healthy enough to describe their experience. Dream-like, out-of-body NDEs usually involve a tunnel of light, seeing loved ones who have passed away, a sensation of euphoria, and a mind-expanding journey. The recent documentation of NDEs has raised the question of whether human beings have souls or not. In most NDE cases, there is the sensation that people’s souls have left their bodies. However, as our knowledge has advanced, many experts claim NDEs can be explained through neuroscience, dismissing the theory of a connection to the soul.

Mind Power

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Mind Power

Recently, Dr. Olaf Blanke, a neurologist at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, was able to consistently duplicate some of the experiences of a classic NDE in a laboratory setting. Dr. Blanke stimulated a part of the brain called the left angular gyrus with electricity. His patients instantly experienced the feeling of a shadowy, ghost-like figure standing behind them. Then he stimulated the right angular gyrus. Upon experiencing this sensation, his patients reported that they left their physical body and were looking down on themselves from above. Right now, science does not know enough about the human brain to fully understand the role it plays in creating NDEs, but we do know that a person does not have to be dying to experience one.

Not Always “Near Death”

Despite what you think, NDEs are not always related to death. For instance, the high G forces felt by combat fighter pilots in training can involve out-of-body experiences similar to NDEs. During the exercise, which sends blood flowing away from the brain toward the feet, many fighter pilots slip into unconsciousness. When this occurs, approximately 20% of the pilots who black out report an NDE. We don’t know exactly why this happens because the brain is so complex, but 50% of the patients who experience NDEs in hospitals aren’t dying. In fact, most of them experience their NDE without any medical cause at all.

Whatever They Are, They’re Real

If you ask someone if the NDE they experienced was a real event or just a dream, most will say with conviction that it was very real. Many people are convinced that NDEs are proof that an “afterlife” exists. NDEs can even convince the highly skeptical.

Proof of Heaven

Take Eben Alexander, for example. An agnostic and board-certified neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander has described his NDEs (he’s had several) as too real to be real, or “hyper-reality.” Initially, he tried to interpret his experiences as simply brain function, but over time, Dr. Alexander has become more and more spiritual. He is now convinced of the existence of a spiritual realm: an alternate dimension where love, compassion, and acceptance are the fabric of all being. Dr. Alexander shares his NDE story and discusses his views on the afterlife in his New York Times best-selling book Proof of Heaven.

The 4 Types of NDEs

Award-winning author and lecturer P.M.H. Atwater has written 10 books and numerous articles on NDEs, including a paper prepared for the 2008 German Conference on Ecstatic States of Consciousness. In it, the internationally known expert categorized the NDEs she has identified in her studies of thousands of patients.

The Initial Experience

The Initial Experience

With this first experience, there is an awakening to a greater reality that may involve a loving sensation, a living darkness, a brief out-of-body experience, friendly voices, or a “visitation.” This type of NDE usually occurs in those who need the least amount of evidence to believe that life continues after death. This often becomes a “seed experience,” or an introduction to other ways of perceiving reality.

The Hellish Experience

The Hellish Experience

Basically, one engages in the untangling of false perceptions associated with inner confrontation and suppressed feelings of guilt, anger, and fear. The individual may find herself in a stark void or limbo state, confronting a hellish purgatory, or experiencing hauntings from her own past. This type of NDE usually occurs in people who expect to be punished after death.

The Heavenly Experience

The Heavenly Experience

Resulting in the recognition of true values and priorities, this type of NDE is tied to themes of reassurance and validation. Experiencers usually visit places of indescribable beauty and have reunions with passed loved ones, including pets. Often a lighted being appears who lovingly conveys inspiring messages of life’s significance. This type of experience is reported by those who seek conviction of love, a meaning of life, and a purpose for their existence.

The Transcendent Experience

The Transcendent Experience

The lasting significance of this kind of NDE is an embracing of “universal oneness” that consists of expansive revelations, alternate realities, and profound truths. There are voyages to other worlds and dimensions that transcend “normalcy” or customary frames of reference. This NDE typically occurs in those capable of accommodating mind-stretching experiences and utilizing the advanced knowledge obtained.

The Natural Afterlife

A common belief is that NDEs provide evidence of a natural afterlife: a wondrous place that exists outside of the physical realm. Of course, most people think this so-called afterlife is a myth and that when our time is up, it’s up. In fact, most of us are conditioned to believe there are only 2 options that can happen to us after we die:

Option 1: We experience “nothing” just like we did before being born

Option 2: We experience a supernatural “heaven” where somehow our consciousness survives and is resurrected

For millions of people who have received a glimpse of an afterlife through a near-death experience, there is no amount of clinical evidence or research that will convince them otherwise. As far as they’re concerned, there is clear support for a third option…

Option 3: We experience a dream-based and everlasting realm—an expansive state of mind and knowledge—a supernatural “afterlife”


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